Stoke City | Smash and Grab

Stoke City | Smash and Grab

Stoke remained unbeaten in all competitions after a comfortable win in the Europa League midweek, while West Brom came into the game looking to kick start their Premier League campaign following a 4-1 victory in the Carling Cup. The fixture finished 3-0 to Stoke at the Hawthorns last season, in where 2 goals came from the penalty spot and West Brom dominated from the statistical point of view. This time around, it was anyone’s game. Would Stoke suffer from another European hangover? Or would they continue their brilliant run at West Brom, where they’ve only lost one of their last 27 games?

West Bromwich Albion 0 – Stoke City 1

28/08/2011 – The Hawthorns, West Bromwich

Referee – Mike Dean

West Bromwich Albion – Foster; Olsson, Tamas, Tchoyi, Shorey; Brunt, Reid, Scharner, Mulumbu, Morrison; Long. Subs – Thomas for Brunt, Fortune for Tchoyi, Dorrans for Morrison.

Stoke City – Begovic; Huth, Shawcross, Woodgate, Wilson; Pennant, Whitehead, Whelan, Etherington; Jones, Walters. Subs – Wilkinson for Wilson, Pugh for Etherington, Shotton (Goal) for Pennant.

Phew, with 92 minutes on the clock, Stoke managed their first Premier League win of the season, Ryan Shotton the hero of the day. It was back to a normal Stoke performance after a dominant 90 minutes against Norwich, slipping back into their usual solid defensive state.

West Brom managed 58.9% of possession to Stoke’s 41.1%, an improvement of 5.5% for Stoke on last years game. The game looked a poor one in stats, and from reports, and the fact that only 5 shots were on target combined (4-1 to West Brom), with 13 overall off target (9-4 to West Brom). A total of only 5 shots all game from Stoke shows a lack of ambition up front, and poor service from a midfield which should be full of chances. With two ‘proper wingers’ in the team, Stoke fans could be genuinely be concerned that they only managed 4 successful dribbles to WBA’s 9, while both teams will be disappointed with crossing accuracy’s of 22% (WBA) and 25% (Stoke).

With a distinctly average 70% pass completion rate – around halfway between their last game vs Norwich (80%) and the same fixture last year vs WBA (64%), Stoke were still behind West Brom’s rate of 76%. The Baggies managed this despite making 134 more passes than Stoke’s 289, and in a stat which will shock youth football coaches up and down the country, Stoke were accurate with less than 50% of their throw ins (7 out of 16 successful). In comparison, WBA were successful with 24 out of 28 of their throws.

In defence, West Brom won more tackles than Stoke (16-15), won more possession duels (53-49) but lost more aerial duels (11-18). Stoke made more interceptions (18-13) and lost possession less (17-13), but conceded more than triple the number of chances (5-16) than West Brom.

Kenwyne Jones has been roundly chastised for his performance, and the doubters would have a point. He took no shots whatsoever, had a pass completion rate of 45% (10 out of 22) and created no chances. Jones also lost 7 out of his 13 possession duels, while winning 5 out of 7 of his aerial duels. So not the best game for the big man up front. No wonder Pulis wants Peter Crouch in up front.

Wilson Palacios is another target for Stoke, but what kind of game did Glenn Whelan have? One shot, which went off target, and an impressive 84% pass completion rate (27 out of 32). He created one chance, lost 7 out of 12 possession duels and made 2 successful tackles. All in all, not a bad game, but improvement is needed in creating chances. Palacios wouldn’t be the man to cause this improvement however, with only 9 chances created in 21 games last season, with Whelan making 13 in his 29 games.

So Stoke eek another good result out of an average performance. By all accounts, a draw would have been a fair result, but in football, you very rarely get a fair result.  It’s obvious were the need for improvement is in the Stoke squad, and it remains to be seen if Tony Pulis will strengthen in these areas, or wait for his squad to come good. In defence, Stoke have 4 of the best central defenders outside of the top 4, and are solid at full back. It’s a creative midfielder and a 15 goal per season striker who should be top of the list, and neither Palacios or Crouch are suited to these roles. Fans should be hoping that a couple of £7million players are in the pipeline before Wednesday evening.

Next time out – after the international break, on the 10th of September, it’s a visit from 3rd placed Liverpool.